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Noh Theater Inspired by Asian Mythology: Watch the New Noh Play "Mazu"

“It would be wonderful to bring Mazu to life on the Noh stage.” This wish was entrusted to Noh actor Kuroemon Katayama 20 years ago by a Taiwanese friend. The new Noh play "Mazu," born from an international friendship, is a beacon of hope in these challenging times when we cannot travel across borders. We want to share this Noh performance with audiences worldwide.

US$ 20,761 Funds Raised
94% Successful Goal: US$ 21,863
people 53 supporters
watch_later 32 days left

Project details:

  • Supporters can watch a live stream and VOD with English subtitles of the Noh play "Mazu," which will be performed on April 2, 2022.
  • The project of bringing Mazu to life on the Noh theater stage was born from a suggestion from Jessie Fan, a Taiwanese friend of Noh actor Kuroemon Katayama.
  • Among the performers is Kyogen actor Mansai Nomura, who is well-known to Taiwanese audiences.

Taiwan’s Beloved Deity Mazu in Japanese Noh Theater

Mazu, known in Japan as Maso, is a Taoist goddess widely worshipped in East Asia, mainly Taiwan and the coastal regions of China, as the guardian deity of seafarers and fisherpeople. In Japan, there are several mausoleums and shrines dedicated to the goddess, including the famous Masobyo Temple.

Currently, Mazu is considered the guardian deity of the oceans and the seas.

In these times when we cannot travel across borders freely, we want to reach out to audiences from neighboring countries by performing Mazu’s story using the means of Noh theater, a traditional Japanese performing art. 

Mazu is a foreign deity to the Japanese and it's a true challenge to turn her story into a Noh play. This is precisely why want to take up this challenge -- in order to show that borders can be crossed through culture. We plan to deliver this performance live through online streaming and as a subtitled VOD to audiences worldwide through the crowdfunding platform Japan Tomorrow.

Born from an International Friendship

We lost many performance opportunities because of the pandemic. During this time, actor Katayama Kuroemon recalled a request he had received 20 years ago from Jessie Fan, a friend from Taiwan.

Photo by Ko Si-chi. Left: Kuroemon Katayama, right: Jessie Fan

Katayama Kuroemon decided to create a new Noh play inspired by Mazu with the cooperation of novelist Kaoru Tamaoka, a good friend of his. This project was born out of the desire to create something everlasting that can be shared with neighboring countries during these challenging times when travel restrictions are in place. Noh performers based in Tokyo and Kyoto will take part in this performance, including Kuroemon Katayama, Mansai Nomura, Kinya Hosho, Shizuka Mikata, Michiharu Wakebayashi, and Ippei Shigeyama.

Supported by Japanese Fans With Over 15 Million Yen in Crowdfunding

In order to bring Mazu to life on the Noh stage, we started a crowdfunding project through THE KYOTO. Gratefully, we managed to collect over 15 million yen in support. 

Encouraged by the result, we decided to try to make this project known to international audiences with the hope that Mazu's story will reach the hearts of people from around the world.

Summary of the New Noh "Mazu"

In the Tenpyo period (729-749), Japan was being afflicted by plague, war, and foreign invasion. Empress Shotoku decided to donate one million pagodas to temples throughout the country as a prayer for peaceful times. She dispatches poet and court official Otomo no Yakamochi (718-785) to Tsukushi (present-day Kyushu). 

On his way, the poet makes a stop at Sumiyoshi Shrine (present-day Fukuoka) to pray for the safety of their voyage. Here, he encounters a shrine maiden by the name of Mokujo, who had saved many people with her predictions of shipwrecks. Accompanied by the shrine maiden and her two attendants, he sets out for sea from Naniwatsu. However, the party soon encounters a storm.

Mokujo, achieving divine power during the storm, dons a red robe, points at the ship’s destination, then vanishes with her attendants. Yakamochi safely arrives in Tsukushi and dedicates the one million pagodas in gratitude to Mokujo who had been the incarnation of the sea goddess Mazu.

The goddess flies down from the sky accompanied by two demon gods and performs a joyous dance. Upon doing so, Sumiyoshi Myojin, the guardian deity of Sumiyoshi Shrine, appears from the sea and invites Yakamochi to travel to foreign countries to spread teachings about compassion.

Performed by Kuroemon Katayama, Mansai Nomura, and Other Actors

Details regarding the Live Streaming and Subtitled VOD of the Performance

Livestream Date

  • April 2, 2022 (Sat)  17:00–18:30 (JPT)

How to Watch the Livestream

  • Project supporters will be sent the link to the livestream of the performance along with a thank-you email.
  • A link to the subtitled VOD will be sent two weeks after the performance.
  • The VOD will be subtitled in English and traditional Chinese.

Rewards

We have prepared several items that will help you turn your viewing experience of "Mazu" into a memorable experience. The rewards include Mazu-inspired confections made in collaboration with famous Kyoto-based confectionery Tawaraya Yoshitomi and beautifully patterned Japanese wrapping cloths.

Aditionally, supporters can receive tickets to the evening performance of the new Noh play "Mazu" scheduled for April 2, 2022, as well as online access to the performance.

Project Risks

Due to current social circumstances related to the spread of COVID-19 infections, the performance may be delayed or switched to an online-only event. There may also be delays in reward shipping times. In the event that this occurs, we will handle the situation adequately and keep our supporters up to date with the situation.

Message of Support 

Ebizo Ichikawa XI

The spread of COVID-19 has brought immense hardship to those who bear the responsibility of passing down traditional performing arts to future generations. I strongly sympathize with Master Kuroemon’s wish to “connect with everyone worldwide through art because we cannot freely travel now,” as an individual who also tries to prevent that the passion for Japan’s traditional arts burns out in these challenging times.

This project is led by a Noh actor with whom I have shared the same joy and difficulties in creating a new piece. He is also someone who gave me considerable assistance with my Kabuki performances. I endorse this project and look forward to the performance of "Mazu" as a spectator.

List of Supporters

  • Mr. Ebizo Ichikawa XI (Kabuki actor)
  • Mr. Nanko Katsura (Rakugo storyteller)
  • Mr. Tadahiro Konoe (Creative director of curioswitch inc.)
  • Mr. Kensei Hayashi (Chairman of the Yokohama Chinatown Masobyo Temple)
  • Mrs. Maha Harada (Author)
  • Mr. Yoshiyuki Hosomi (Director of Hosomi Museum)
  • Mr. Yasuo Miichi (Noh mask maker)
  • Ms. Noriko Murakami (Film producer, 23rd head of Murakami Pirates (Innoshima))
  • Ms. Rieko Morita (Japanese-style painter)

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